Learning doesn’t stop when you get out of school — you never graduate from the School of Life. Exploring the world and yourself by learning new skills is a part of what it means to live a full life, and learning the right skills also grows your career.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars to learn how to do spreadsheets, develop apps, or make lattes for your boss. Enjoying surprising facts, taking pride in your hard work at a new hobby, and appreciating the talent and beauty around you expands your horizons, relieves stress, and enriches your life and career in ways unimaginable.
Here are six ways to learn and grow your career for free:
1. Take Free Community Enrichment Classes and Programs
Many libraries, universities, nonprofits, and other networks offer free community enrichment classes and programs to boost the attention to their other services, and it’s a way to give back to the community. Attend lectures, brown bag lunch discussions, and workshops.
You’ll find many of these offerings on websites, course catalogs, and fliers in coffee shops. Don’t be afraid to call up your local library, university, or nonprofit to ask about complimentary enrichment classes. Take a community yoga class or learn new ways to structure your resume. Get a primer on small business taxes. Some martial arts facilities even offer a complimentary class on occasion — especially if you bring a friend.
2. Listen to Podcasts
Have a little bit of time and love to listen? Turn your educational exploration to podcasts, which can cover any and every topic imaginable, including weird combinations.
Try “Found My Fitness” to learn about how your gut affects your health or figure out whether you need more Vitamin D. Or, listen to “99% Invisible” to learn the history of inflatable dancing men in used car lots and other random pieces of knowledge. Pop in your earbuds, search, and press play.
3. Enroll in a MOOC
MOOC stands for a Massive Online Open Course, which most institutions and universities typically offer. However, online classes come in many forms.
Hybrid classes are 30 to 79 percent online and occasionally meet in person, but offer traditional learning in a classroom environment.
Many classes come from accredited universities that may offer a certificate for an additional fee, but that’s not required to participate. Online education has become more acceptable now than it was in the past. Brush up on your Spanish skills or learn more about world art.
4. Find a Mentor
A mentor is a valuable asset in your network who will help you grow along a projected path and develop your skills accordingly. You may keep this mentor for a short while or build a professional relationship that lasts a lifetime.
Offer 100 percent curiosity and respect to your mentor and be upfront about what you desire and hope to achieve from gaining this person as a mentor — don’t waste their time. Agree on ground rules and set a specific goal together.
Don’t be afraid to take on more than one mentor, but don’t spread yourself too thin. Find your mentor by reaching out to a teacher, community leader, or business owner for a coffee meeting, and don’t discount the power of networking.
Meetups don’t only happen on LinkedIn or Meetup.com, but it’s a great place to start looking. Many people build mutual interest groups out of all sorts of activities, from survivalist skills to reenactments of the Civil War or Renaissance times.
All sorts of meetups and guilds exist in the world for photographers, writers, coders, gamers, language learners, and more. Step outside your comfort zone and go to a meetup to find your learning tribe.
6. Barter Skill Learning
Does a friend, colleague, or other professional have a skill you admire and want to add to your toolkit? Why not barter skill learning like you would anything else in a barter economy? Community learning helps everyone grow without money getting in the way.
For example, if you’re talking to a coder who wants to get more fit, arrange an agreement where you help them develop a workout routine, and they help you get started with coding basics. Outline your plan in advance and be sure to keep communicating, so no one feels like they’re giving too much.
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Use these six strategies to learn new skills and more about the world for free. The possibilities are endless, and life is meant for exploration. Let your curiosity take over and expand your knowledge to enrich your life and career.